the french and their headscarves

The problem of headscarves in french schools is unbelievably thorny and i am not sure i know where to stand on the issue. So it is sadly comforting to read that others at at just as much of a loss (this is from a very good book review at Powells about the anthropologist John Richard Bowen’s new book on the same subject):

So while it is easy enough, especially from an American perspective, to ridicule the proponents of the headscarf ban, it is much harder to say what they should be doing differently. Yes, it is absurd to expel girls from school over this marginal issue, and yes, the controversy has probably harmed the cause of Muslim integration far more than it has helped. Headscarf-wearing Muslim girls are not signs of a “Muslim plot,” as some of the more hysterical French headlines have alleged. But they certainly are signs of a great social transformation whose outcome is unclear but whose dangerous potential is all too visible. And frighteningly, despite the desire of many reasonable people in France to find a peaceful and reasonable accommodation, no one seems to know how to stop the worst case from developing.

I tried to write some more on the subject but always ended up deleting the paragraphs, so i will leave it at that, without even trying to spell out a fragile solution to this vicious circle of a problem.


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